Editorial: Why Net Neutrality matters

With a news cycle updating at a speed heretofore unknown, it’s understandable if what we focus on each day changes.

But one of the reasons we’re able to get so much information so quickly is under dire threat.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating, net neutrality is under siege. That should concern every citizen of the internet age.

Net neutrality is the concept of keeping the internet the free, open marketplace of ideas. That’s all.

It is not allowing the government to decide what content you are able to see. It is not putting the internet in the care of the United States government.

Perhaps most concerningly is the fact that a destroyed net neutrality could lead to a clamp down on dissenting opinions and protests. This should be troubling for Americans of all political stripes. Because the internet is a worldwide marketplace of ideas, any law chaining up the internet could have ramifications on a global scale.

One merely has to look at online message boards or see editorial cartoons to realize that the vast majority of people who have an opinion on net neutrality have no idea what the concept even is.

When you use the internet, you have a basic expectation that the content you choose to interact with will not be slowed, or throttled, by your internet provider.

This is one of the fears associated with a non-neutral internet. The Internet Service Providers [ISPs], such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon could manipulate the internet to show you content they prefer you to see and limit you or fully block you from content they do not want you to see.

President Trump’s Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Ajit Pai, has proposed a plan to dissolve net neutrality rules. The commission will vote on the landmark rule changes on Dec. 14.

This will impact the news you see, the sites you can use, the streaming services available. It will change the very landscape of the internet as we know it. ISPs would be well within their right (and their shareholders’) to cleave the internet into “fast lanes” that those who pay extra for a service will be able to use, while the rest of us schmucks will be forced into slow lanes. This is a departure from current laws regarding the internet and one which will be nigh impossible to rescind should it go through.

If net neutrality is destroyed, ISPs will have the ability to decide which outlets are heard and which are not. Verizon could block sites that compete with it, or publish content its executives do not agree with. Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, has direct connections to ISPs and his very participation on this vote should be a cause for outrage.

As it stands now, net neutrality is poised to slip away in a 3-2 vote.

This could very well destroy what passes for free speech on the internet.

The internet was built with American tax dollars, and allowing the already bloated, ineffective, profit-driven ISPs to gain further control is just another step in shuffling the nation’s vital infrastructure resources into the hands of wealthy oligarchs.

Go to www.fcc.gov to send thoughts, comments and concerns about Pai’s proposal. More than 23 million internet users already have.